Mind Over Sports

ATHLETICS AND AGING

Posted on: August 28, 2017

According to an article that appeared in a recent issue of the New York Times, “Being a world-class distance runner in your youth does not guarantee that you will be fit and healthy in retirement. But it helps, according to a new study that followed a group of elite American runners for 45 years. The study’s findings raise interesting questions about how we can and should age and the role that youthful activity might play in our health later in life. Aging is one of the great mysteries of life and science. Its chronology is clear: With each passing year, we are a year older. But the biology of the process is murky. Scientists remain uncertain about how and why our bodies change as we age and to what extent such changes are inevitable or mutable. In other words, we do not know whether aging as most of us now experience it is normal for the human species or not.

“That issue is at the heart of the new study, which was published this month in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. It began almost 50 years ago, with a spate of coaching and testing that took place just before the 1968 Summer Olympic track and field trials in the United States. At that time, Jack Daniels, an exercise physiologist and running coach, began working with some of America’s top distance running prospects. He tested 26 of the athletes extensively, determining their aerobic capacity, or VO2 max, and many other measures of health and performance capabilities.”

The research Mr. Daniels is conducting is excellent but I would ask him these three questions:
Did those runners tested have a high sense of self-worth?
Did they come from loving, nurturing home environments?
Did they have a strong belief in a higher power?

I’ve always felt that people who have high self-esteem are more likely to take care of their bodies when they are young, and will never abuse alcohol or drugs. As a result, they live longer than those who do not. In my case, I played handball for almost thirty years, five times per week, three hours per day. I also played semi-pro basketball. I believe that exercise, along with having a high sense of self-worth as a result of being reared in a loving, nurturing home environment, will lay the foundation for you to be physically healthy your entire life. It’s worked for me, even now in my 85th year.

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